By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
In challenging times, we rely on our resilience to get us through. The past months have been one of these times for many of us, and now that the acute anxiety has eased up, it’s time to refocus on wellness again. “The definition of resilient is someone or something that bounces back into shape or recovers quickly.” (1) There are so many things we can do to improve our resilience, or ability to bounce back, both emotionally and physically. Here are some starting points:
Prioritize the basics:
Your basic health pillars are always the the place to start. When your self-care is in balance, your body has the ability to withstand both illness and emotional stressors. Think of them as your foundation – you cannot neglect any of them, otherwise your health begins to slide. When any one or more pillars are neglected, it adds extra stress to your body, which then reduces your physical resilience.
- Sleep – although the number of hours of sleep we each require can vary, when sleep goes below 7 hours per night especially, you are adding a large amount of stress to the body.
- Nutrition – balance is key, especially eating enough food, enough protein and regularly through the day.
- Fresh air – this has been lacking for many of us over the past months, and is essential to optimal wellness, not just for vitamin D, but for respiratory health and vitality.
- Movement – I deliberately chose the word movement instead of exercise, because in reality daily activity does not need to be hard-core exercise. Walking, hiking, cycling, skiing and home-workouts all count here, but your body does need to move on a daily basis, especially if you’re still working from home.
- Community and connection – this is perhaps where our resilience has been most impacted over the past two years, and the importance of human connection has become extremely evident. Please prioritize connection with the people who are important to you, with ongoing precautions or distancing where needed.
- Don’t restrict fuel or sleep – restricting nutrition, eating too little calories, too little protein or even carbohydrates, or not getting enough sleep both impact your resilience. This can impact your immune system, your emotional tolerance of stress, and also your hormone balance, creating even more issues. (For example, irregular periods, spotting, an increase in hot flashes, worsened PMS).
- Alcohol and caffeine both interfere with your resilience, and although it feels like they help you cope in the moment, an excess of either of them wears you down. Alcohol impacts sleep quality, creates hormonal symptoms, impairs your immune response, and causes mood changes like depression and especially anxiety. And obviously too much caffeine can amplify your stress and anxiety, impact sleep quality and will also worsen PMS symptoms.
Get support with chronic or lingering health issues:
Any type of chronic health issue, whether it’s ongoing acid reflux, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis or high blood pressure can impact your resilience, by creating ongoing body stress to manage. This year has been a big one with a strong wake-up call to take a proactive stance with out health, and during COVID-19 times, cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, insulin resistance and other cardiovascular disease have been in the spotlight.
The basic pillars of health, as described above are always the backbone of your your treatment plan, but we can take this several steps further with a targeted nutrition plan, supplements to correct imbalance, and advanced or thorough lab testing to understand the full scope of your health issues.
Mental health support where needed:
Many people have experienced very high stress over the past months with isolation, fear of illness, family members getting sick, or a reactivation of past trauma. If you feel that your anxiety and stress response are very slow to recover, or are still feeling extremely anxious, you may need some extra support right now. Mental health therapy is an essential piece of building your resilience – learning tools and strategies to manage your emotional state better, and to address reactivated trauma if present.
If you need help to build a long-term health maintenance plan, with strong pillars in place, are ready to tackle chronic health issues that wear on your resilience, or need referrals for mental health support, please reach out. Now is the time to a strong baseline for your health, and in the summer months where are less stressors interfering. I am happy to support you in any way that I can right now.
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